“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:27–30 NLT)
In 2003, Aron Ralston committed the cardinal sin for solo mountaineering: he didn’t tell anyone where he was going or how long he planned to be away. This omission resulted in him being trapped in a canyon for five days, his hand and wrist pinned between a boulder and the canyon wall. He was only able to escape and find rescue after he amputated his arm. Ralston has said that if he hadn’t cut off his own arm he would have died in the canyon before any of the rescue efforts underway would have been able to find him.
Jesus is not calling for us to follow in Ralston’s footsteps by physically removing body parts in an effort to save ourselves, but his use of hyperbole is intended to convey the seriousness with which we should tackle the sin that so easily entangles us. Each of us has our own personal traps, and with a bit of self-reflection we can discern what triggers them. Ultimately, it is easier to avoid the traps altogether – gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand – than it is to be continually untangling ourselves from the same pitfalls.
Spend time in reflection to look deep into your soul for the things that trigger your personal traps, not just the actions you take but the thoughts and emotions that often lay buried underneath. Secreting yourself away to find a place of solitude to write down your thoughts in a journal might prove to be a healthy place to start as you take time to reflect.